The Texas Dept. of Transportation and contractor Flatiron/Dragados LLC have “completely satisfied” four of the five main design safety concerns the state agency raised over the under-construction new Harbor Bridge in Corpus Christi, officials say.

Valente Olivarez Jr., TxDOT’s Corpus Christi district engineer, told the Corpus Christi City Council on March 7 that he expects a final design solution for the last outstanding issue, related to uplift at intermediate piers, may be finalized within the next few weeks. Design is currently underway.

So far, the joint venture contractor has agreed to extend the footings on both the north and south pylons and add additional drilled shafts to address concerns about the bridge’s ability to handle vertical loads and wind loads, according to Olivarez. The contractor is also roughening concrete surfaces and adding rebar at connections between delta frames and adjacent precast concrete units in order to increase their capacity, TxDOT says. The firms also adjusted crane placement plans, adding counterweights to account for any high wind events during construction. 

Change orders totaling about $80 million have been approved so far, Olivarez says. He expects TxDOT and the contractors will settle disputed items by the time the project is complete. 

“There’s still going to be other dispute items outside of this that will happen behind the scenes that we still need to take care of,” he says. “But we’re not at that point right now. I think both entities’ full focus is: construct and build and get this project done.”

TxDOT ousted the original engineer-of-record from the project, FIGG Bridge Engineers, in 2020, following a federal review of the collapse of a FIGG-designed pedestrian bridge in Miami. The project team added a team of Arup and CFC to fill the role. But officials then ordered a halt to construction of the $930-million bridge’s main span last summer over design concerns raised during an independent review of the plans by International Bridge Technologies. 

By November, TxDOT reported they and Flatiron/Dragados had resolved the first of the five issues, and officials cleared main span work to resume again in December. Olivarez says “the culture has really changed” on the project following some initial resistance from the contractor. After TxDOT raised its concerns, Flatiron/Dragados brought on a new project manager, Justo Molina. 

In addition to the bridge itself, the project includes reconstruction of some highway interchanges that will connect to the future shipping channel crossing and other related work that has continued during the pause of work on the main span. Lynn Allison, a spokesperson for Flatiron/Dragados, told the Corpus Christi City Council that the north approach is 85% complete and expected to finish in the fall. Work on the south approach is expected to complete this summer.

The bridge is expected to open to traffic in the first half of 2025, Allison says. Once complete, the 1,661-ft-long main span would carry I-37, US 181 and State Highway 286 over the Corpus Christi Ship Channel. It would replace an older, smaller bridge and allow for larger vessels to use the channel. 

Following construction of the new bridge, the contractors are set to demolish the current Harbor Bridge. That work is expected to last about a year.